The Left Wants Your Kids Online
Why are common sense restrictions on pornography met with elite derision?
The mainstream media recently purported to report a “story” when an old video emerged in which House Speaker Mike Johnson discussed his use of Covenant Eyes, a pornography filter on his family internet. Many of the media accounts tried to twist Johnson’s perfectly normal and wise decision to keep pornography out of his home into something weird and creepy.
They falsely stated that the Speaker and his son use the filtering technology to “keep track” of each other’s pornography use.
We might dismiss the media’s hysteria as a typical coastal elite disdain for Christians and those who cling to traditional morality. But it seems to me to reflect a deep problem the left has with young people and the internet. Simply put, the left refuses to acknowledge that their advocacy of sexual freedom and First Amendment protection for pornography since the 1960s have created, when combined with the internet, smart phones, and social media, a romantic hellhole for young people.
Social science has caught up with conservative predictions about the sexual revolution and the baleful effect of online existence: Dramatically fewer young people date, marry—or even have sex. They look to social media, pornography, the instrumental encounters of online dating, and random hookups to fill the emotional emptiness of their lives, but their efforts do not seem to work. Rates of mental illness, depression, suicide, overdose among the young are at epidemic levels. Young people are not assuming the roles and engaging in the behaviors that make each other attractive to the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, while the left’s disdain for Johnson may reflect its denial of its role in creating the conditions to which our children are now condemned, this disdain has spread into the conventional wisdom of other elites, including our judges, as seen in judicial reactions to legislative efforts to do something about this crisis.
For instance, in a remarkable opinion, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra, who recently ordered the removal of Texas’s border barriers on the Rio Grande, stayed a Texas law that required age verification for pornography sites. He simply refused to acknowledge that the Texas age verification law responded to a unique cocktail of harm that online pornography, social media, and smartphones pose to our children. His discussion of pornography’s harm was limited to one sentence: “It is uncontested that pornography is generally inappropriate for children.”
Rather than engage in a serious analysis of both online pornography’s harm—and the difficulties of regulating it—he found Texas law unconstitutional using a wooden analysis based on two Supreme Court cases, written in the infancy of the internet, Reno v. ACLU and Ashcroft v. ACLU. These cases are predicated on factual claims that have proven wrong, such as “filters are more effective than age-verification requirements,” “the Internet is not as ‘invasive’ as radio or television,” and “users seldom encounter content by accident...odds are slim that a user would come across a sexually explicit sight by accident.” Properly understood, these cases should have little precedential effect.
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Those who love both our children and the First Amendment must heed Justice Holmes’s admonition: “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.”
At increasing rates, young people are not engaging in the activities that are necessary for human flourishing and the preservation of civilization: romantic attachment, marriage, and children. A reasonable response to this potential civilizational catastrophe would include limiting minors’ access to pornography.
When Johnson installs pornography filters, he is derided as some sort of pervert. When Texas tries to help parents get control of this problem, a federal judge smacks down the effort based on 30-year-old precedent based on outdated factual predicates. In both cases, we must overcome liberal aversion to looking reality squarely in the face.